My guest today is Blake Morgan, a Customer Experience Consultant and author of More is More. Blake teaches brands to create “Knock Your Socks Off” customer experiences.
Join us as we learn the best ways to improve your customer’s experience with your brand and how you can provide more value in your marketing.
listen to this episode
- Blake’s career path from journalist to customer experience consultant
- The problem with “Gotcha marketing”, “Insertion marketing” and bad profits
- Connecting to consumers with relevant content opportunities
- Generational differences in the consumer market
- How-To tips on improving customer experience on your own and within an organization
- Internet of Things (IOT) and the future of marketing
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are. During this show, we’ll learn how to get more visitors, more leads, more customers, more long-term profit by using good marketing, by treating people the way we like to be treated. Head over to everyonehatesmarketers.com to subscribe to the email list. We’ll notify you before anybody else, of our future guests. You’ll also help us to come up with great questions for the future guests. You’ll also get access to the numbers in terms of number of listens and downloads of the podcast and also, quite simply, to have great one to one conversation if you need any help.
In this episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com, I’m talking to Blake Morgan. Blake is an American customer experience consultant. You can find her website at blakemichellemorgan.com. She’s also author of the book called More is More. She teaches brands to create what she calls knock your socks off experiences. She’s a really interesting character, really uplifting person and she had a lot of great stories to tell me during this episode. She’s going to tell you for example why she wanted to become a journalist and why she turned her back to this profession to become a customer experience consultant. She’s also going to share very personal, almost painful story about a break-up that made her a better person.
Then, she’s going to talk about marketing and why brands are doing it wrong. She’s using some very, very interesting terms to describe certain type of marketing that shouldn’t be done this way. For example, Gotcha marketing which is about tricking people to create profits and bad profit instead of focusing on adding value or what she calls insertion marketing which is about the fact that brands insert themselves in every single channel, on every single part of the life of people and why people don’t like it.
Finally, she’s actually going to share a very detailed how-to list on how to actually improve customer experience. More importantly, if you’re working for a big company or even a medium-sized company, how to convince your managers or the C-Suite to actually improve the experience. Obviously, as usual, she’s going to share plenty of resources that you can use in your business to improve your customer experience. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
Blake, thanks for your time today. Thanks for coming into the podcast.
Blake: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Louis: You’re very welcome. When was the last time you changed your mind about a brand because of the experience you had with them?
Blake: I was recently driving my car around my neighborhood. I live in the bay area. I came upon a truck. It was a big truck. It was a Safeway truck which here in the U.S. is a huge grocer. Let me preface this by saying that I am a big fan of grocery delivery. I have a newborn baby at home so I don’t have a lot of time to go to the store. Generally, I use Instacart, which is a grocery delivery service here.
But I saw the Safeway truck and in big letters it said, “FREE DELIVERY.” But then, as I squinted while I’m driving my car, getting closer to the truck, underneath, in small letters it said, “Only for your first delivery.” This is the type of Gotcha marketing that has been prevalent forever since the ‘50s, since the days of madman here in New York City. I think customers today are fed up with it. The Gotcha marketing model is starting to not work anymore. We could talk about that more later in the podcast. But this is due to the force transparency because of things like social media.
The Gotcha marketing model doesn’t work. Safeway, the grocery here, reminded me of how much I hate Gotcha marketing.
Louis: I think we’re going to have a lot of fun on this podcast, to be honest with you, because I love what you just said about Gotcha marketing. I actually never heard this term before but that’s exactly what pisses me off sometimes about brands. I suppose what happens with this particular brand is that you’re probably not going to buy from them, right?
Blake: Yeah. It makes you not trust that brand. You today are going to work with brands that deliver a good service that don’t try and trick you or dupe you. There was a famous guy, his name was Fred Rickled. He writes a lot about net promoter score and he also talks about something called bad profits. Bad profits are brands that try and dupe or trick customers into buying more.
Today, there’s nothing more egregious a brand can do to upset a customer. Just like you said it, it literally makes you feel furious because you feel tricked. Customers have more choices today than at any time in history. They’re going to vote with their wallet by working with companies that do what they say they’re going to do and there’s no small print.
Louis: They will vote with their wallet but they will also openly criticize companies that are actually distrusting. They will shout out in their social media accounts and they will shout out to their friends and that might lead, in a bigger scale, to a big issue for the brand, right?
Blake: If you think about it, brands today are spending so much money on social customer service. They say that social media customer service is cheaper but in reality, it’s not, because you need so many different tools to basically aggregate all of these customer issues and get them into an operational process.
Instead of putting so many resources on the back end, on putting out fires. Brands need to focus more on the service they’re offering at the beginning. Are we duping or tricking customers? Are our products solid? Do they break easily? Do we have easy self-help services so customers don’t have to contact us? Again, the social customer service is not cheap. Spend more time and resources at the seed of the customer experience and you’ll find that you have to do less damage control later.
Louis: That’s a very good point. I guess we’ll get into the more actionable items later. But before that, I’d like to come back to you a little bit. You studied modern literature, right? In California, correct? In 2006. I mean I know it’s far away but I know it’s not related to customer experience.
Blake: Right, yeah. I, like many people here in the U.S, probably in Europe too, studied humanity subjects, modern literature, the history of art and visual culture. I thought I was going to be a journalist. I moved to New York City bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and quickly I figured out that the print industry was dying and I needed to shift gears. I haphazardly fell into customer service. 10 years later, I still love it so here I am.
Louis: How did you move from college to your first kind of big job which was for a conference producer?
Blake: When I was in college, I didn’t want to go home ever in summer. I just wanted to get out of Orange County, where I’m from. I took a lot of internships. The last internship I took last year in college, I remember it was a magazine. It was a very sexy magazine called SOMA. I remember showing up that day, probably wasn’t the most fashionable young lady at the time. This was 10 years ago. Actually, this was more than that. I remember the publisher said to me, he was an abrasive guy. He said to me, “You shouldn’t work here. You shouldn’t intern here. You don’t look the part. You’re not basically our material.” I literally shamelessly begged him like, “Please give me this chance. I promise I’ll prove you wrong.” It ended up being a great internship. Today, I would’ve told the guy to go screw himself. When you’re starting your career, you don’t have the luxury.
I took that internship at the magazine. I got published wherever I could and basically moved to New York City with no money, with no real plan. But I did have an internship and I had like a one month lease on my friend’s apartment which I couldn’t afford. I just really hustled. I remember I would take any job. I did data entry as a temp work. I would do a temp work like be a secretary for a day. I recall just sitting and doing literally Excel sheet like punching in numbers all day. I wanted to claw my eyes out. But it just goes to show you have to be just consistent and work hard and opportunities will open themselves up.
Louis: You did those small jobs. When did you learn this kind of first permanent, full-time position?
Blake: To be transparent, because this podcast is about transparency. I took a job, it was pitched to me as we hire journalists and you have the opportunity to be a conference producer, conference director. But essentially, I was in telesales because my job was to call really hundreds of executives each week, probably more than hundreds, and get them to fly with their own money and their own resources to speak at conferences.
The conference industry is very profitable. It’s profitable because you’re charging people to attend the conference, you’re charging vendors to exhibit at the conference, and you’re not paying most of your speakers. 95% of our speakers we didn’t pay. It’s a hugely lucrative model, except for the overhead. You pay for the hotel.
That’s what I did. I managed to become friendly with the chairman of the company. Two years in or so, probably more, I got picked to basically be part of turning a conference company into a media company. That’s how I kept falling into these opportunities with digital and here I am. I’m grateful for that telesales job I had so long ago.
Louis: Yeah, thanks for being so transparent with it. I’ve been invited to a few conferences. I’m not as well-known as you, far from it. I haven’t published in Forbes yet. I remember, most of the time at first, to be completely transparent, we had to pay to speak. I made a deliberate choice to actually pay to speak at conferences that we thought would bring clients and they actually did. Then after a few times we managed to get invited to speak for free. For me, it was an accomplishment. I mean, I don’t know.
The speakers that you called, they had to fly from their home to wherever the conference was, on their own expense. They weren’t paid to speak and you were paying for the hotel.
Blake: It was a great opportunity because the only leverage I had was the relationship I built over the phone with these people. I did everything I could to build relationships over the phone. I’m an introvert. For me, being on the phone is really painful. But it forced me to understand rule number one about marketing, which is relationships are everything. If you don’t have a relationship, you don’t have contacts, no one’s going to ever do anything for you or believe in what you’re building. Because essentially, with these conferences, or anything you’re trying to get buy in for, you have to make people believe in something that doesn’t exist yet.
Louis: Yeah, that’s a good point. In 2012, you started consulting. Do you remember how you got your very first customer?
Blake: I think I begged him. I think my first customer was a company called Sukhi’s Indian Food. I might have met this company at a farmer’s market. This is the way I slowly, on the ground, built relationships with companies, with small businesses and I learned. That year was really, really hard because I was very green. Even though it wasn’t that long ago, a lot can change in four or five years. I was doing projects that I wasn’t essentially good at. I realized quickly I don’t want to be a social media marketer. You promise these people that you can help them with social media. It’s a dead business.
Today, you realize social media has to be something internal, has to be consistent and you can’t hire a consultant to come in and sprinkle social media magic overnight and your company blows up.
I, after that, took a couple of full-time jobs. A lot of start-ups were included in those jobs and I realized that I’m not a good employee. I don’t enjoy working for other people. Took a long time for me to realize that but you have to build your reputation. Now I’ve written a book so I’m hoping that will help my career. Here I am.
Louis: Yeah. You really have to work hard to get your first customer. You mentioned the project that you’re involved in that you didn’t really like, do you remember what those projects entail?
Blake: Of course. There was one company that was a wearable company. They eventually got bought by Fossil. They were a watch company. I did help them with PR and that was the promise. I’m going to do PR for you. I soon realized I hate PR, hate it. It’s just awful. I got them into Mashable and I think some other online magazines. But essentially it didn’t work out.
It took so many times of things not working out for me to realize what I should be doing. I’m so grateful for all of the times where projects didn’t work out because it guides you into what you’re supposed to be doing, to your true calling.
Louis: I have a confession to make. I’m actually quite jealous of you for one particular reason. I was looking at your Forbes contributions recently. Do you write twice a week or even three times a week for Forbes?
Blake: Yeah. I’m publishing a lot of content. I have a podcast show called The Modern Customer podcast. I have a show on YouTube. I write an article. It’s about three posts a week.
Blake: Don’t be jealous, though. It’s a lot of content and work. It’s rough.
Louis: Of course. As you noticed, English isn’t my first language. I think I always struggle with it to write. I’ve never been happy with my writing. I always have been more comfortable speaking at conferences or talking to people like we’re doing now instead of writing. It’s always something that I liked to be better at and I think I need to work on it.
But it’s quite impressive to see the amount of articles you wrote. Quite a few of them are quite popular as well. The top five have been viewed quite a lot. Congrats on that.
Blake: Oh, thank you. But I’ll tell you I failed a lot more than I’m successful. I think that’s what you have to do with the internet. In fact, one of your advisors or part of your community is Rand Fishkin, probably saying his name wrong. But I was reading an article that he wrote about how to be a thought leader, how to be successful at this whole game. He said that in retrospect, he wishes that he wrote less but spent more time on quality content and quality things. I think that’s great advice.
I’ve tried to slow down and do that myself and be more thoughtful about the content. Because it’s so easy to publish or do anything but be more thoughtful. I would say for you, you didn’t ask me my advice but I would encourage you to just focus on what you’re good at. If you like doing this podcast show, focus on that because what you focus on, grows. Also, you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re not going to want to do it for a while. That’s what it takes to be successful.
Louis: Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s part of a strategy obviously. That’s the reason why we’re doing this podcast and also building a transparent nation. That is because it’s not my strength. There are other things that we are much better at doing which I think interviewing people, discussing with them and getting to know them is one of the strengths we need to leverage.
As of today, you’re a consultant now. Happy, you’re producing a lot of content. What do you think is the number one channel to get new clients where they’re coming from?
Blake: Probably my Forbes column, people reading it and contacting me. But I would say your best asset is your relationships. I’ve had keynote speaking opportunities that I got because a vendor’s client works with me on a board and said, “Hey. I know Blake Morgan. You should check her out.” You kind of have to be everywhere at once. You have to do in person, you have to put content out there and you have to be consistent. You also have to be nice to people because transparency is important but you have to maintain your reputation.
I had people when I was on a board of a nonprofit business group. I remember one guy, he was very rude to me. We asked him to speak, we didn’t have any money or maybe we had a little money. We said, “Hey. We’re having this event on a yacht. We want you to come speak to our executives. We don’t have a lot of money but we’ll buy your book. We’ll buy your book. Come and speak.” He was so rude in the email and he was like, “People pay me to speak. I’m insulted.” A few years later, I see this guy all the time, we know each other and I wonder if he remembers those emails he sent me that were so rude. This happens all the time. You always have to be professional because it’s going to come bite you in you know where later on.
Louis: That’s a good point. It goes back to what you’re saying about the number one thing about marketing is to build relationships. If you don’t build the right relationships, if you create bad relationships, then yeah, it’s going to bite you in the ass. I can say that, it’s fine. I can say the word.
Blake: You’re French.
Louis: Exactly, I’m allowed. Coming back to you a little bit more, this is a question I usually ask when we hire people. I think it’s a great question because it gets into the core of who a person is. Is there any particular event in your life that you can remember that made you who you are today?
Blake: I would say when you’re a kid and you are rejected time and time again when you’re a kid. Every kid is rejected at some point and have that feels and you get back up. That resiliency that you built, whether it’s you’re not popular at school, you didn’t make the soccer team, you didn’t get chosen for this or that. You just get back up. I think for people if you can make friends with rejection and learn to laugh and get right back up and not take it personally. Take the feedback but don’t let it get you down too much so you stay down. That is the number one lesson I hope to impart on my daughter as well. She’s only 2 ½ months old. But keep getting back up. Resiliency will ultimately make you successful. Learn to be friends with rejection.
Louis: Is it linked to you as a person, like a particular event happened to you that really made you realize that?
Blake: So many. My first love dumped me. I thought we’re going to get married. He’s like, “Sorry. It’s not going to work out.” When I lived in New York City. That was a formative experience for me. I was so broken hearted. I’ve been very transparent here for you.
Louis: Yeah. I appreciate that.
Blake: I remember I was close with my boss at that time. Hope he listens to this. It was a bunch of, to be honest, young women working at the company for this guy. He was sort of a mentor to all of us. He saw how depressed I was. He said, “What are you doing? Go enjoy your life. Go out with your girl friends. Get out. It’s the New York City. Go to parties, go enjoy. Be selfish.” I did. I spent a year doing that.
I was at a CRM conference, which I begged to go to. My boss told me no. I said, “Please I want to go.” I ended up meeting my husband now who is the best thing that ever happened to me. So amazing. If I hadn’t taken that time after being that rejection from that person, I wouldn’t have met Jacob who I love so much. You know who Jacob is.
Louis: I do. I’ve been in touch with Jacob as well.
Blake: Yeah. Things always work out. It’s just all about your attitude and your mindset. I would say that’s my formative experience.
Louis: I appreciate you saying this, I really do. I think this is why I asked this question. Because most of the time, this is what happens. One single experience, one single story usually tells you a lot about a person. I’m glad you’re happy now. I’m glad you found the perfect husband.
Louis: Moving on to digital marketing more in particular, specifically a field that you excel at which is customer experience. Recently, is there any online experience you had that made you cringe?
Blake: Oh gosh, everyday. Marketers unfortunately are still leaning on a crutch. The crutch is insertion advertising. Everywhere you look, marketers are inserting themselves in places that consumers don’t want them to be. For example, are you familiar with the GPS app Waze? Do they have that in France?
Louis: Yeah. I think they have that in France. I don’t know if it’s available in Ireland, though.
Blake: Oh, you’re in Ireland. That’s right. I’m sorry.
Louis: Yeah. But my brother is using it. They have it in France at least.
Blake: Okay. The other day I was driving my dog, I have two dogs, to the ER, the emergency room. Actually my husband was driving. I’m in the front seat. I was looking at the GPS to get where I’m going and I saw a huge, bright red ad pops in my face and it says, “Hey, Blake. Want to go to McDonalds? It’s only half a mile off the freeway. Come have $1 sweet tea at McDonalds.” It really confused me because I looked at it and initially I said, “Oh no, it’s bright red. Is this an emergency on the freeway?”
It made me realize that these brands are trying so hard to insert themselves everywhere in places where consumers will actually look because consumers don’t look anymore. We skip ads with services like Netflix or HBO which are, I know you probably know this, but content services for people who want to watch shows. We’re just trying to avoid ads wherever we can. The harder marketers try to insert themselves in these conversations, the more consumers try and avoid them.
We’re all seeing the publishing industry completely more afraid now because of ad blocking software. Even Forbes you can see my column, the readership has been way down, it’s kind of a long story. It’s tougher for every publisher today. That’s I think the biggest challenge for marketers. It’s all about being helpful, providing value. Insertion marketing doesn’t work now. It’s going to work even less tomorrow, as technologies get more advanced to block these ads.
Louis: Can you find any other example of bad practices that are actually not best practices in marketing? Outside of this insertion marketing, which I really like the term as well.
Blake: Absolutely. I’ll give you a fun example that is not very tech savvy. Today, I got my farmer’s box. It’s called the CSA box here in California. That is a box of produce that is delivered from local farms around where I live. With the box comes a list of all the produce that I ordered for that week. But it also comes with a fantastic print out actual paper of a recipe that I can make with the seasonal ingredients in the box. This is a great, super simple, old school example of how it’s about providing relevant, timely content to consumers and providing education. It’s not just about ads hocking services.
I have another example. It’s actually from the IOT world, the internet of things world. Because the internet of things allow brands to connect and talk to consumers more than they’ve ever had the opportunity in history of technology. Absolut Vodka, they’re working on an IOT enabled bottle where somebody goes to the airport and picks up their vodka bottle at the tax-free store. We’re all familiar with those. The vodka bottle will talk to that customer and provide a relevant opportunity like, “Come have lunch in the united lounge.” Or maybe some other type of content. Maybe if the bottle is not at the airport, it’s at a liquor store or at a bar, get that customer home safely. Hopefully, these are tangible things that you can think of. But it’s about providing relevant, timely content to the consumer and being educational and helpful. It’s not about hocking your message.
Louis: You talked about ads on internet, in particular. You talked about the fact that big websites like Forbes need to rethink their business model or else they will basically die because people are sick of ads. As marketers and specifically digital marketers, how do you think we could make the internet a better place?
Blake: I have to recap what I just said because it’s all about being helpful. Jay Bearer, thought leader and author has this great book called Youtility. In the book, he talks about how it’s so critical that brands are helpful rather than just hocking their marketing messages. Because that’s how you build a relationship, you provide value. You listen. Have you ever been to a party where you meet someone and they just start talking at you for 30 minutes? And you just can’t wait to get away from that person that doesn’t listen?
That’s like brands today. They’re like talking and talking and talking at us and we can’t stand it anymore. We want someone to listen to us. I want someone to come up to me at a party and say, “Oh, hi. What’s your name?” Hi, my name is Blake. “What do you like?” Well I like to go jogging, I like my dogs. Here’s a picture of my baby. Then they respond with something relevant. That’s how it is to have a conversation to build a relationship. Brands need to think more about how they could be better listeners.
Louis: I have a confession to make. I mean the second confession of the day. Not a big fan of the term customer experience. The reason why I’m not a big fan is because I think that businesses shouldn’t have to be told to care about customers. To me, a business is made to serve a customer, else, this business wouldn’t be there. It should be obvious. Why do you think businesses have to be reminded that caring about customers is actually the only thing that matters?
Blake: Way back when these customers started their businesses, they did care about customers. They said, “Hey, we have this awesome new product. Let’s figure out a way to get it to more people.” But along the line, the brands grew bigger and bigger and bigger and they started becoming more focused on their profits. Not annual profits, quarterly profits. This has slowly thrown most companies off course. Off the course of what you said which is what Peter Drucker came up with a long time ago. The purpose of a business is to create a customer. They stopped thinking about that. They became too focused on Wall Street and quarterly profits. That continues to throw brands off.
My message is don’t focus on quarterly profits, think long-term. If companies would just think long-term they’ll be more successful. But they can’t let it go. They’re like pry it from my cold dead hands, I will focus on quarterly profits.
Louis: It’s a study from Harvard that we saw recently. I think it was in 2011 or 2012. They surveyed 34 directors of Fortune 200 companies. 34 people sitting on board of at least one Fortune 200 companies. They asked them would you destroy the Amazon forest just to make more money? 31 out of the 34 people said yes, they would.
Blake: Wow, that’s depressing.
Louis: From what you’re saying and actually, it’s quite funny because the quality you mentioned from Peter Drucker, we’ve actually been mentioning that quite a lot as well. To me, that’s actually crazy that we have to say, “Hey, guys. Your business, the only thing that matters is to create customers and make them come back.” I find that absolutely amazing that we have to repeat that. But I guess that’s good for us because it means we have clients and good companies to run.
Blake: Yeah, you’re right. That’s really hard to believe about the Amazon rainforest. You wonder if these executives have children. That’s pretty scary. I have to Google that after this call because I didn’t see that report.
Louis: I’ll send you the link.
Blake: Okay, thank you. That’s why we have checks and balances. That’s why we have government. Here in the U.S., we have the EPA, the Environmental Protection agency to protect the natural resources. Some companies are taking a different approach like Patagonia that give their employees the day after Thanksgiving off, which is Black Friday, which is this obsession with consumers in the U.S. where there’s a lot of sales where people go crazy in buying more stuff.
But some companies are taking a different stand like Warby Parker, they provide every pair of glasses that you buy from them online, they will give a pair of glasses to somebody in need. These one for one models are becoming more popular. Because millennials, people our age, care about the environment, care about the world and are sick of these corrupt companies that like you said, are just ready to destroy the rainforest if that just makes them more successful. It’s hard for me to believe these people get into these positions of power with the attitudes that they have.
Louis: Yeah. You’re actually I think reading my mind because a few questions later I’m going to ask you a question about our kind to millennials. Even though I don’t really like the term but I think it’s good. What’s the definition? Is it people below the age of 30, is that it?
Blake: I think millennials are people born after around 1980.
Blake: Generation Z is born I think after 1994.
Blake: I was born in 1984 so I’m 32. I’m a millennial.
Louis: Yeah, I am too, 1988.
Blake: Oh you’re a baby, younger than me.
Louis: Yeah. I’m going to have to cut that for the listeners. They shouldn’t know. No, I’m only messing.
Before moving on to this particular topic, I’d like to just picture us. Let’s say we are a digital marketer and we work for a small online business. We sell let’s say shoes online. We sell unique shoes that nobody else has. But our CEO just told us that we need to make the customer experience better. Because he went to this conference and he heard that we need to make the customer experience better. What would be your plan as a digital marketer in a small online business to actually make this experience better for customers?
Blake: First stop is about listening. Finding out, even getting on the phone with customers or going to take a customer for lunch and say, “Hey, what would you like to see that you don’t see now?” Or “What about this experience would you change?” It’s, pretty, I would say, easy to do something like this but a lot of companies don’t do this. They don’t value the folks in the contact center, the place where employees literally make contact with customers.
We spend much of our time trying to create connections with customers. Like I said earlier, insertion advertising, trying to insert ourselves. But if we would literally just listen to the contact center and ask the right questions about the customer’s experience, we will get so much valuable feedback. It’s a treasure through of information that brands can use to improve the customer experience right away. But we like to create products at a vacuum. We don’t want to take the time.
Here’s a phrase that I like and I took it from an author called Gretchen Rubin who writes about happiness and habits. It’s called going slow to go fast. In order to be successful, we have to slow down and beat that fall and ask questions.
Louis: It’s a fantastic point. Specifically in the world of online marketing and online business, what we found out actually is that as marketers, we are behind our screens every day. We look at three parts analytics, Google analytics. We look at data, we look at Excel spreadsheets. There is this disconnect between us and the customer because of the screen. We see them as numbers. After a while, it’s kind of difficult to develop empathy when you look at Excel spreadsheets every day. This is one of the key points, is that not many companies as you said would actually take the time to pick up the phone or meet customers in person.
Blake: They wouldn’t so if you’re willing to do that, you’re immediately special. You immediately stand out.
Louis: I like that. Step one, we listen. We’re a small online business, we listen. Then what happens? What should we do?
Blake: Right. Then we take that feedback and that data and organize it and write it into a story that’s easily understandable. We take it to the different stakeholders, to the different business groups and say, “Here’s what we’re seeing. Here’s what we’re hearing. How can we take this information and improve the work that we’re doing with our customers, the products that we’re serving them with?”
Louis: Why would you choose to tell it as a story instead of a spreadsheet?
Blake: Because we’re overloaded with numbers and words and data. We don’t hear anything. The best way to be effective with people is to tell stories. To make it relatable is the best way. There’s a whole book about it that’s called How to Win an Argument, is essentially tell a story. That’s how we learn is through storytelling. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. Stand out by thinking about your delivery and how you’re expressing yourself and making it interesting for the person that you’re trying to sell on this idea.
Louis: Step one, we listen. Step two, we collect this feedback. Step three, we create a story and share it with stakeholders. Step four, hopefully, they agree and we can start actually making the changes.
Blake: That’s absolutely right.
Louis: Perhaps it will be the same point but let’s say we are in a digital marketing team so we are part of a much bigger business. This business is not only online, it’s also offline, the real world. In such a bigger type of company, how would you approach the same problem?
Blake: The same way. In fact, I worked at a big company with over 100,000 employees. I considered myself a change agent. I brought multiple business groups together and organized a day where I said, “Here’s what we’re hearing from customers. Here’s how I’d like to work with you to improve XYZ.” It was face to face meetings. That’s what I would encourage any change agent to do, to organize a day. Make it interesting for those stakeholders. Bring them together and come up with a plan. I actually also invited everybody from the different group to present their story. They felt heard as well.
Louis: I like that. I guess it’s the same point. I think your approach is slightly different. For smaller businesses, you can basically go to the stakeholders directly. You don’t really have to go through managers after managers. While for big companies, you propose to organize a sort of a corporate event inside the business where everybody can really tell their customer story or their story and hoping to be heard by their management, right?
Louis: Right. Going back to what we started to discuss about a few minutes ago, about millennials in particular. While I don’t necessarily like the term, I need to think about why I don’t like it. But what’s the main difference between millennials or people born in the ‘80s and people born before that?
Blake: You might call them the forgotten generation but people who are my grandmother’s age or a little bit younger. Unfortunately, we don’t talk about them. They’re called the maturers I think. Then you’ve got baby boomers. I believe those are folks born in the ‘40s and later. My dad’s a baby boomer, he was born in 1949. He’s in his later 60s. Then you’ve got Generation X, so their kids. That’s my brother. Those are folks born before 1980. My brother’s born in 1980. Then you have Gen Y.
The thing with Gen Y that some people forget is that we didn’t necessarily all grow up with these technologies. I didn’t have email until high school. It wasn’t a crucial part of my education experience. I didn’t have a cell phone I think until college. Gen Y is still, while we didn’t have these technologies growing up, we still expect instant gratification. I think that’s the main difference between our generation and older generations, we expect everything right away.
Louis: In terms of digital marketing and for digital marketers listening to this podcast particularly trying to talk to this audience, millennials or Generation Y. What will be the tactic to use to actually make them care?
Blake: The cool thing about millennials is that we don’t value things. We value experiences over things. Part of this reason is in early 2000’s, we saw our parents and grandparents, at least in the U.S., I’m sure abroad as well, lose a lot of their savings. If you go at the store today, you’ll see old people working in the grocery stores. It’s very sad. With the 2008 recession, a lot of people lost everything. I think it was just another reminder that you have to value experiences because things will be taken away from you. But experiences you will never forget.
This is a generation that really puts a premium on going to concerts, on going on trips. In tandem with these changes, hospitality industry has completely changed and democratized travel. Anyone can travel. In the 50’s it was really hard to travel. It wasn’t easy like today where you can book an Airbnb or go on TripAdvisor and it’s much more affordable. All of these factors compound to create this perfect storm where companies can focus on providing interesting experiences rather than just focusing on selling things.
In fact, there was a recent Goldman Sachs infographic that showed that people aren’t buying things like they used to. For example, before Gen Y, your class was dictated by ownership. Do you own a home? Do you own a car? Are you married? These other things, these like turning points in people’s lives like our parent generation. But now, kids are flocking the cities, when I say kids I say Gen Y, Gen Z, their inspiration hubs, idea hubs in these cities.
If you go to a city, you don’t need a car. You’re going to rent an apartment, you’re not going to buy an apartment. You’re more free. That’s what young people value is that freedom, the ability to do anything any time. They don’t want to be shackled to having a house, a car, even a family, because a lot of young people are putting off marriage and kids until much later in life.
Louis: To come back to the point you made before, I mean to what we are discussing before as digital marketers in a small online business, the take away from that could be if you’re selling shoes online let’s say, would be to organize an actual event offline. I mean the real world where those customers could go and meet maybe celebrities or people that they actually love like celebs on Snapchat and that kind of thing, right?
Blake: Absolutely. You can use Snapchat. Even here in San Francisco, stores like Lululemon, which is a fitness apparel store, they organize running clubs. They have runs every week. We’re seeing more retail stores focusing on experiences because other than that, how can a retailer compete with the Amazon or Zappos or whatever they have in other parts of the world? Alibaba. These online retailers. The only differentiator for these stores is to provide something more, something experiential that the internet can’t provide.
Louis: You wrote a really great article. You made a point in this article where you mentioned the fact that today, we Google how to do something when we don’t know how to do something. You’re mentioning that in the future, companies will know in advance that we struggle with something in particular and they’ll give us the answer in context. You’ll use a tool, you start working as expected and this tool will almost talk to you to say, “Hey. Are you having any issues with this part? Perhaps this is what you need to do.” What tools do you think or what services do you think digital marketers will use in 10 years that don’t exist today?
Blake: IOT will be huge. Everyone’s saying that. I’m kind of sick of hearing it. But basically, the data on the products that we’re wearing or we’re using will be sent back to savor on the phone with the contact center agent. That contact center agent in real time will be able to see. Say there’s something in my car. I’m driving in my car and I’m calling to get help. That agent will be able to see, “Oh Blake is in her car. Say I’m in L.A. She’s on the 101 freeway and there’s traffic or it’s raining.” In real time that agent can see. “I know Blake can’t look at anything right now because she’s driving.” Or they can help me because they know in real time the exact context of my situation.
Here’s an interesting point. Never in the history of the world have brands had the opportunity to engage with customers wherever they are. For example, I’m wearing a Fitbit watch right now. The moment I wake up, I put on this watch and Fitbit could, if they wanted, find a way to send me a message at 6:00 AM on my watch or 9:30 PM. It’s a huge opportunity presented by IOT that we didn’t have before.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in 5 years or 10 years in their job?
Blake: Back to what I said about being helpful. It is all about providing something interesting to be helpful, to be useful and earning the relationship that way rather than being a great social media marketer, being great at ads. Ads are never going to work in the future. They don’t work as well now. They’re not going to work in the future. It’s all about being useful, providing contextual help and value.
Louis: If you had to choose three resources for digital marketers out there, it could be a book, it could be going to a conference let’s say or it could be a person, blogger or thought leader. Who and what would it be?
Blake: I would say check out Jay Baer’s book Youtility that I mentioned earlier. It’s a really good book that talks about exactly what I’m referring to on being useful.
As far as conferences, it is expensive to travel to events. I would say one really helpful thing, if you can swing it, is get to an event that’s not in your country. It’s so helpful to connect with people in other countries. Every time I’ve broken bread with someone in another part of the world, it means so much more than if you’re just in your local city.
These relationships that you start in person continue to build online. I noticed that people like me much better online than me in person. I like them better too. That’s just the way it works. Go to a conference abroad, break bread with people, spend time, get to know them. It’s wonderful because you learn, you create relationships and you get that global experience which every person needs today. That global experience.
Louis: It goes back to the experience.
Blake: Yeah, exactly. There was a third thing you asked me.
Louis: Yes. If you have it, tell it.
Blake: What was the third? It was the conference, the book and then?
Louis: A person.
Blake: Oh and a person. I would say I was just listening to a podcast the other day, this guy is so everywhere that honestly, I hate to mention him. But Simon Sinek is really an interesting guy. He’s so well-spoken. I listened to this wonderful podcast yesterday with him and Amy Jo Martin who has a new podcast show. It’s about basically seizing the day and why not now for people, so it’s inspirational. He gave her a book, she was going through a hard time in her life. In person, they had met, he gave her this book. It’s by Viktor Frankl called I think it’s Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s all about having meaning in your life and faith, and how that will ultimately get you on your feet and make you successful.
Simon Sinek is a thought leader to a watch. Because he’s always doing something interesting and he’s so damn authentic. You almost hate him because he’s so successful. He’s not a cheese ball. He’s really thoughtful and well-spoken.
Louis: I stopped being so cool, a lot of people like this. The next question was who else do you think I should interview next. But I think we know. I think I need to talk to Simon Sinek.
Blake: I hope you can get him.
Louis: I’ll try anyway.
Louis: I think he got numb with these tech documents. I don’t want to say something that’s not right or that’s not true. But I think he got numb because of this video, the Start With Why video.
Blake: That’s right, yeah.
Louis: I think it got watched millions and millions of times. It’s still obviously still bearing the fruit of this particular piece of context.
Blake: You know what he said? I want to share with you something he said because I loved it. It really resonated for me. He said that basically, why he was successful was just he didn’t resist the momentum. Things kept happening for him but there was this momentum and he didn’t just say no. He let it kind of guide him on this river, if you will. He kept saying yes and just taking the signs.
I’m kind of feeling like that in my own life. Hopefully, you’re feeling like that with your transparency movement. You just have to continue with that momentum and continue to say yes and doors will open. What you’re supposed to be doing will make itself known.
Louis: Yeah. I think as long as you have your true north, as long as you have a vision or fight that you’re fighting for, a vision of what you want to be or what you want to fight against, then you can say yes to everything. But then, there might be a problem with being not focused enough if you say yes to everything as well without knowing why you’re doing something, right?
Blake: Back to what I talked about with the rejection because as you get older, people will tell you what you’re good at, what you’re not good at. You shouldn’t always get angry because that’s such valuable knowledge. The nos will guide you to the yeses. Listen to the nos, listen to what people say. Ultimately, you’ll start to get encouragement and information about the road you’re supposed to be on. Have your true north but do look for those signs. Don’t have your head in the sand because those signs will help you make successful.
Louis: Blake, you’ve been fantastic, really, really great resources and a lot of good points. Where can listeners connect with you, hear more from you?
Blake: Thank you. They can visit me at blakemichellemorgan.com. There, you’ll find my podcast show, my YouTube show, and my newsletter. I would love to connect with your listeners which I assume you have a global audience as well. Please come find me and maybe I’ll come to your country soon.
Louis: I’m sure they will. To the listeners of the day, thanks for listening to this episode. We’ll share the notes and all the resources mentioned in the podcast. Blake, once again thank you very much for your time.
Blake: Thank you.